Yoga with Mirella Nicholson

Yoga with Mirella Nicholson

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The End...

I officially filed the divorce papers last week.  It was surprisingly simple.  I showed up at the courthouse, signed my name and paid a fee.  It's done?  Is that it?  The end of a 25 year marriage over with a signature and $330.  Seemed so strange. Almost anti-climatic.  As I drove home I wondered why there wasn't some sort of ceremony for divorce.  What's an appropriate reaction? Congratulations?  My condolences?  

The past 2 years, since the separation, have been a roller coaster of emotions. I was surprised that when I left the courthouse the only emotion I felt was relief.  I have spent 2 years grieving.  It's strange though.  When a loved one dies, there's a funeral.  Your family and friends come to support you as you say your good-byes.  The grieving is expected.   The emotions I felt at the end of my marriage were much the same.  Once the anger, resentment, and fear passed what was left was grief.  I didn't expect that.  What was even more difficult was holding space for my children to grieve and work through their own pain.  I would go to work and teach my classes.  I would make dinner and clean the house.  I would do the grocery shopping and fulfill my obligations.  Grieving and processing in private.  Doing what needed to be done while experiencing the most intense emotional turmoil I had ever faced.

I am grateful for my yoga practice.  It was through my sadhana that I was able to truly process the emotions.  It was my sadhana that gave me the strength and courage to walk through the darkness. I didn't numb my emotions.  I didn't run from my feelings.  Firmly established in my sadhana I was able to face each tidal wave of emotion head on.  For that I'm grateful.

The most difficult challenges we face in our lives become our greatest teachers.  With this thought in mind I decided that my divorce ritual will be a thank you letter.   It will go something like this...

Dear Ex,

Thank you for the craziness....It ignited the fire within me to seek out peace.
Thank you for your harshness .... It helped me appreciate kindness.
Thank you for making me feel less than... It gave me the drive to be the best version of myself.
Thank you for not being supportive.... It taught me to be self-sufficient.
Thank you for not providing... It made me a hard worker.
Thank you for teaching me what love isn't.... I now know what love is.
Thank you for the constant fighting... It made me appreciate harmony.
Thank you for abandoning me.... It taught me that I am stronger than I ever imagined.

In gratitude...
The End

Thursday, April 14, 2016

My new friend, Saraswati

I should begin by saying that I have not done any sadhana to Saraswati.  At least not yet.  I've always heard that she is the Goddess of music, art, dance.  I've always thought that only musicians or artists did sadhana to Saraswati.  I was wrong.  She is inspiration itself,  pure consciousness.

The story goes that in the beginning Brahma, the creator, asked "How do I bring order to this chaos?"
Saraswati answered "With knowledge.  Knowledge helps man find possibilities where once he saw problems."  What I didn't know is that Saraswati is the Goddess of knowledge.  "She is the river of consciousness that enlivens creation."

That story struck home for me because my life has felt like complete and total chaos for the last couple of years.  I recently went to talk to a counselor who basically said the same thing to me.  Her advice was "Knowledge is power." She set me on track to find the information that I needed to bring order to the chaos I was facing.  It was quite empowering.

Saraswati is creativity.  She is inspiration. She governs over our speech.  Her energy embodies the power of discernment. It's said that if you were to pour milk into the lake, Saraswati's swan could separate the milk from the water and only drink the milk.  It is her gift of discernment that allows us the ability to separate truth from untruth.

Honestly, while I was reading,  I was surprised at how powerfully I was drawn to her.
Goddess, Lakshmi, is about using the senses to enjoy all the beauty in life,  Saraswati is more simple, clear, pure.  She's more interested in meditation, higher learning, wisdom.

"The question arose: who did Vishnu, the preserver,  need more? Lakshmi or Saraswati? Wealth or Knowledge?......Vishnu replies... "I need both knowledge and wealth to sustain the cosmos. Without knowledge, I cannot plan.  Without wealth, I cannot implement a plan.  Wealth sustains life; the arts give value to life.  Thus both Saraswati and Lakshmi are needed to live a full life." ~ Devi, Devdutt Pattanaik

Again, this is powerful for me personally.  I tend to appreciate practicality over beauty.  I look at something beautiful and while I can appreciate it's beauty I do not always see the value in it.   My mind doesn't see the value in something that has no practical, useful purpose.  This is a mental pattern that I'm working to change.  I look at some shinny, beautiful thing and I immediately ask "What's it's purpose?"  Instead of passing it by when I can't think of a useful purpose I try to remember that "beautifying my environment" is it's purpose.  

Both Saraswati and Lakshmi are needed to live a full life.  I have a feeling I'll be writing more about Saraswati in the future but for now here's her mantra.

Om, I bow to the flowing one whose essence is wisdom and the power to manifest

Use her mantra when you need some inspiration, when you are learning something new, when you need to give an important talk or speech.  Invoke her energy when you need help finding a solution to a problem or when you're making music or art.

 ~Awakening Shakti, Sally Kempton 

Sunday, April 10, 2016


Om Shrim maha Lakshmyai namah

The Goddess Lakshmi represents abundance, wealth, good fortune, beauty, love, fertility and all the sweetness in life.  

When I began my Lakshmi sadhana the intention was to attract enough cash flow to help me make ends meet.  Praying for abundance or wealth always felt greedy.  So I prayed for just enough.  At the beginning I didn't think attracting beauty into my life was worthwhile.  After all, I needed cash not beauty.  But... the way to honor or attract Lakshmi's attention and blessing is with beauty so I embarked on a beautiful adventure. 

I set up an alter in my bedroom. I covered the dresser with a shimmery Gold cloth.  I found a lovely, delicate lotus flower shaped candle holder that is a pale pink color.  The radiant glow of the candle holder when the candle is lit is perfect.  I offer her beautiful flowers, I offer her a beautiful mala hand made for me by a woman who embodies Lakshmi's beauty.  

My rituals include beautifying my environment.  Sweeping and mopping the floors, Making sure to keep my surrounds tidy and organized.  I read somewhere that Lakshmi likes a beautiful, clean environment.  As I do my household chores I remind myself that I am preparing my home for the Goddess.  I started the 100 days of beauty Facebook page to document the beauty I find in the ordinary.  In order to receive I must give, so I give of my time, I give money, even if it's only a few dollars to others who need it more than I do, I offer support and encouragement.  In order to receive I must give. 

Several months into my sadhana I started to feel Lakshmi's presence in my life.  I do believe she was always there but with my attention being put into honoring her I was more aware of her blessings.  I am surrounded by beauty.  It was always there.  All I needed to do was look.  The effort I put into beautifying my environment increases the beauty I see everywhere.  What I put my attention on grows stronger in my life. Taking the time to nourish and take care of myself  helps me feel more beautiful. The contentment I feel when I know that I am supported by the Divine Mother helps me. When I'm feeling calmer and at peace it radiates outward. Beauty begins within.  When you feel beautiful you look more beautiful. Nourishing and taking care of ourselves from the inside out is a way to honor Lakshmi.  She is all about the goodness and sweetness of life.  

Last summer, each time I picked vegetables from my garden I offered them first to Ma Lakshmi. Knowing that it was her Grace that provided the abundance of colorful, nourishing food.  It was Lakshmi's blessing that provided the friend who graciously came and helped me plant the seeds. What could be a better description of good fortune than friendship? 

What began as a sadhana asking for Lakshmi's blessing quickly turned into a sadhana of thanksgiving.  What good fortune to be able to recognize the abundance of goodness and sweetness that surrounds us! 

Om Shrim maha Lakshmyai namah! 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Jai Durga Ma

Let me preface by reminding you that I am not a Vedic scholar.  I am a spiritual seeker sharing my own personal experiences and thoughts.   My intention for this post is to share my experience with the Goddess, Durga.

First, I want to tell you the story of how I came to know Durga.  During my yoga teacher training program one of the guest teachers, Bonnie Pariser, asked me a few questions about some lower back pain I was feeling.  "Do you know Durga?" she asked me.  When I told her I didn't she told me that Durga creates a protective shield around you and fights the righteous fight for you until you are strong enough to fight along side her. I had not yet made the connection between emotional and physical pain so I didn't understand what she was telling me.

It wasn't until a year or so later that I remembered what Bonnie had said.  I was reading my friend, Susan Bertolino's blog one day and I noticed a beautiful image on the side bar.  I asked her about it and she told me it was a Durga Yantra.  (A yantra is a mystical diagram used for worship of deities)
That's when I remembered the story from yoga teacher training.  I decided to google Durga. One of the first links to come up was for a temple not far from where I live.  As I was reading the temple web-site I got a call from my daughter.  Her boyfriend needed to visit a temple for his religion class and wanted to know if I would go with him.  Turns out that  the temple he was going to was the same Durga temple that I was reading about.

The synchronicity continued.....

Not long after my visit to the Durga temple with the boy who eventually became my son-in-law I met a Vedic Astrologer that was visiting from Oregon.  (I'll save the story of the synchronicity of how we met for another post.)  At the end of his first visit to our studio we were saying good-bye. He told me that he wanted to give me something that belonged to his mother.  It was a beautiful image of Durga. I've carried that image with me ever since.   This gift represents, for me,  the story of the Goddess that I resonate with the most.

The story goes that none of the Gods could defeat the evil demon that was terrorizing the three worlds so they all came together to find a solution. After meditating, they decided that they would each offer up their own "super power" into the fire.  It was out of their combined offering that the warrior, Durga  manifested.  She was easily able to defeat the demon and the three worlds were protected from evil.  This story illustrates the power of the collective.

What I learned from doing sadhana to Durga is this:

We have a moral obligation to protect those who are not strong enough to fight the righteous fight  That doesn't mean encouraging co-dependency.  It means holding space for someone while they do the work necessary to find their own inner strength.  Doing the inner work is a lot easier when you know someone has your back while you are in the vulnerable state of working through  your stuff.   Hold the space for someone and ask for support when you need someone else to hold the space for you.  Remember  "all that evil needs to succeed is for good people to stand by and  do nothing."   Don't stand by and do nothing when you see someone in need of help or protection. 

Collaboration is more powerful than competition.  Can you offer your ego into the fire to benefit the whole?  We each have unique gifts to offer and when we come together in community and combine our efforts for the greater good we can move mountains.  Remember the old saying "It takes a village to raise a child."?  In collaboration anything and everything is possible.

Change the thinking of I and mine to we and ours.  There's no doubt that most mothers would fight a lion to protect their child.  Think of the power behind all mothers and fathers standing up to protect ALL the children?  It can no longer be about my children verses your children.  It needs to be about OUR children.  Even further, there needs to be a shift from protecting my home to protecting OUR home, Mother Earth.   It's time to actually start practicing what we're preaching and see the oneness in all of life and move towards the unity that will accomplish greatness.

Om Hreem Shreem Dum Durgayai Namaha 

Friday, April 1, 2016

What do I have to offer?

What do I have to offer?? This is the thought that has hijacked my mind for weeks and weeks. 
What do I have to offer? Authenticity, vulnerablity and a heaping helping of "I don't know!". That's what I have to offer.
I'm learning to be ok in the not knowing. I'm ok with admitting that I don't have all the answers. I'm not an expert. Some days, it takes everything in me to just get my ass out of bed.  Some days I show up at my desk and look down to notice I'm wearing  two different shoes or that my shirt is on inside out.   I make mistakes.  I get angry, I get depressed.  I get overwhelmed.  What do I have to offer? 
Some days I say "What the fuck!!!"  47 times before lunch.  Some days I eat French fries for dinner.  Sometimes I have a perfectly good lesson plan ready but half way through the class I get distracted and forget what I had planned. 
What do I have to offer?  Most days I spend the whole day counting the minutes until I can go home, take off my bra and crawl under the covers.  Some days, I roll out my yoga mat  and with all good intentions I begin with Surya Namaskar only to spend the next hour in savasana after the first round.
Some days, I experience sensory over-load and my head spins, my heart races and I fight the urge the puke.  Some days, I honestly don't know if I'm coming or going.  Some days, I feel like giving up. 
What do I have to offer?  
Self-doubt is my constant companion.  Feelings of not being good enough, not doing enough, not working hard enough are so familiar that they feel like my own skin.  What do I have to offer?
I can offer my own struggles. I can offer my authentically, messy self.  I can offer my story.  I have learned some tools that have helped me.  I have had some experiences that have taken me to the brink and back.  I have walked through the "dark night of soul"  ( which, incidentally, lasted longer than a night).  What do I have to offer?  My own experience with all the messy human emotions that no one wants to talk about.  
What do I have to offer?   I can offer you what I, myself need.  A couple of years ago when my world turned upside down I remember someone saying to me "You'll be ok.  You have a lot of family and friends to support you."  The fact of the matter is that everyone thinks that someone else is offering support so no one actually does.  The biggest source of my distress has been when people say things like "I'm here for you."  "If you need anything call me."  The truth of the matter is that when I have reached out and asked for support I have been disappointed to find that  most people don't actually mean those things.

What do I have to offer?  Myself.  Authentically, Vulnerably, messy ME.   What do I have to offer?  Exactly what I need is what I wholeheartedly offer.  I was recently reminded that when I can't find what I need it's a sign that what I need is what I am meant to offer. "It is in giving that I receive". 
I don't know what that will look like exactly but I'm learning to be ok with not knowing and leaving the details up to God.  In the words of Kirtan Soul Revival.... "I release and I let go. I let the spirit run my life..."
Om Namah Shivaya!